Don’t Go to College (and Other Thoughts on Education)

Ask any boomer and he’ll tell you how it was drilled into our heads, as teenagers, that “you can’t get anywhere without a college education.”  What that actually meant was that you couldn’t get a job that paid well.  When it came time to enter the workforce, we were led to believe, a college degree was essential unless you wanted to settle for a lowly blue collar job that would barely pay a living wage.  (Note: universities offer a little more than colleges, but they’re pretty much the same and I use the words interchangeably here in addressing high school students who are thinking about attending college, as well as their parents — not that I think this message is going to reach an appreciable number of them.)

At some point, I learned that this is an American thing, and for that reason we have an awful lot of students who don’t belong in college.  In Europe, it’s different.  Upon graduating high school, young men of average intelligence are encouraged to learn a trade — a skilled occupation, be it plumber, electrician, carpenter — that every advanced society needs.  Of course, we have that in the U.S. too, but not as much as in Europe, where this superstitious belief that “you can’t get anywhere” without graduating from college hardly exists.  Or so I’ve been told. 

Well, things have really changed in the last fifty years, but before I get to that, let me take a look at the good old days, meaning the 1970s when I went to college, and the rule of thumb was that most employers at high-end companies or government agencies would only hire college graduates.  It didn’t matter what you majored in, or if you didn’t know who George Washington was, or you couldn’t multiply 5 X 10 in your head, all that mattered was that you put your four years in and got your sheepskin.  And this really was the mindset of many employers: “Don’t bother applying unless you’re a college graduate.”

I went to an all-boys Catholic high school in Mineola, on Long Island, Chaminade, which had a reputation for academic excellence.  Everyone knew it to be a college preparatory school, and all but one of the 230 guys I graduated with in June 1971 went off to college that fall.  I had a vague idea of becoming a dentist someday, but no serious aspirations, so early in my senior year I had a talk with our guidance counselor, as many boys did.  He recommended that I apply to three upstate Catholic schools — Siena, Canisius, and LeMoyne.  I took his advice and was accepted at Canisius, in Buffalo, and LeMoyne, in Syracuse, both run by Jesuits.  I chose LeMoyne and majored in biology.  Within two weeks I decided that this place wasn’t for me, that I’d be dropping out at Christmas break, and spent the rest of the semester majoring in ping-pong, though I did show up for most classes and failed only one.  My parents were troubled by this, but I just knew in my heart, without being able to articulate it, that I didn’t belong in college.

I spent the next two years bouncing around from one dead-end job to another, which actually was a better education than what LeMoyne provided.  I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and with nothing on the horizon, I figured the best thing to do was return to college.  So in the fall of 1973 I enrolled at Adelphi University, in Garden City, an easy commute from home.  They had just started something called the PRIDE program (I forget what the acronym stood for) for students who previously had problems adjusting to a regular college curriculum, so I fit right in.  There were about twenty of us, and we sat in on a rotating schedule of four subjects — English literature, History, Sociology, and Physics.  In addition, we had to take one elective.  PRIDE was all pass-fail, and everyone passed, even one brooding black guy, an ex-con, who missed more classes than he attended.  Adelphi was a country club.  Everything about it was a joke, though I’m sure it was typical of many universities in the seventies.  Actually, PRIDE wasn’t all that bad.  Most of us got along pretty well, we liked our teachers, we had some engaging bull sessions, and I even fell in love with a pretty girl in class, a former model no less, though that relationship went nowhere — the same direction my life was going.  I still couldn’t see the point of this thing they called a college education, so at the end of the spring 1974 semester I dropped out again.

By this time I’d been working part-time a few years at a gas station and auto repair shop, and had also taken a night course to become an accredited baseball umpire, and I was working high school games in the spring, as well as summer league ball.  I was still living with my parents so I had no financial worries.  Also, while at Adelphi, I’d learned of a professor in the philosophy department, Robert Pasotti, who had a reputation as an outspoken right-winger, quite a novelty on a left-wing campus, though many students raved about his lectures.  I had begun reading a few works of the great philosophers, and since my hours were flexible at the gas station, I went down to Adelphi in the fall of 1974 and asked Dr. Pasotti, as he was addressed, if I could sit in on some of his classes, even though I wasn’t enrolled.  He just nodded.

Bob Pasotti’s lectures were indeed riveting, giving me the intellectual stimulation I craved.  At the time, I was an “environmental” liberal, meaning that I had absorbed some of the liberal doctrines of my surroundings, but I was never really a liberal at heart.  I was dissatisfied and confused about a lot of things.  Over time, Bob helped me to “find myself” politically, and brought out the latent fascist in me, if I can put it that way.  He came to like my inquisitive nature, which set me apart from other students, and got me to read some great books.  Even though he was nearly as old as my father, we became friends, often meeting in the school rathskeller for a few beers, where we had some great discussions.  Unlike his colleagues, Bob was also into guns, and around this time he started a rifle club at Adelphi which I joined, and I credit him with buying my first gun, a Marlin .22.  Years later, Ihe invited me up to a home he had in Vermont and got me into deer hunting, which became a November ritual for five or six years.  I’ve been hunting ever since.  But I gradually became disenchanted with Bob, mainly because he had a serious drinking problem and cheated on his wife, who was a wonderful lady.  Also, I got fed up with his conservatism, which never got past the Ronnie Reagan level, and with his arrogant attitude in general.  Eventually, our friendship came to an end.

In mid-1975, having been — on the record, anyway — out of school for a year, I decided to re-enroll at Adelphi and stick it out until I finished.  So I was back in class that fall, with my sights set on graduating in May 1977, which would necessitate taking a summer school course at a community college in 1976 to earn enough credits, including some I had picked up at LeMoyne, though again, I had no idea where my life was leading.  I chose to major in both history and philosophy.  I signed up for another class with Bob, and one with another professor in the department whom I didn’t know, Thomas Knight.  Knight wasn’t popular and his classes weren’t well attended.  I later learned that he had been a medic in the Korean War, and that undoubtedly made him a hard-bitten man who had no patience with prissy or pretentious students.  He sometimes directed caustic comments towards those he didn’t like, filling the room with an embarrassed silence, and he wasn’t exactly friendly with me during the first course I took with him, though he later mellowed and we got along.  One thing about Knight, like Pasotti, was that he was highly intelligent and knowledgeable.  Both knew their great philosophers going back to antiquity.  Both put me on the path to reading Nietzsche.  In an unspoken way, Knight taught me how to be intellectually honest — to examine an idea that contradicted a cherished viewpoint, as painful as that might be.  Through him I cut my last flimsy strings to Christianity.  Outside of classroom assignments, Pasotti urged me to read two great books that I had never heard of, None Dare Call it Treason by John Stormer, and African Genesis by Robert Ardrey.  These two books alone instantly and profoundly put the world into focus for the first time.  I also took courses with two of the other four professors in the philosophy department.  Both were forgettable people, as I’m sure the other two were, and as all the teachers in the history department whose courses I took were, with one marginal exception.  Of the seven or eight electives I took, only one, a course in classical music taught by a man with an old world charm, stood out as a valuable experience. 

And so, as planned, I graduated, magna cum laude no less, in May 1977.  Magna cum laude.  Big deal.  My parents were impressed, but I wasn’t because I knew how meaningless it was.  Furthermore, I had developed such a contempt for Adelphi — for its lack of standards, for the pervasive mediocrity of the faculty and student body, for the suffocating leftist atmosphere on campus — that I refused to attend my graduation ceremony.  Let them mail me my diploma.  This hurt my parents, who were looking forward to seeing their son in cap and gown, but I wouldn’t take part in this farce.  And more important, here I was a college graduate and I still had no idea where my life was headed, and no interest in any kind of career.  By chance, six months later, I was offered the opportunity to learn how to drive an oil truck, and I figured what the hell, I’ll give it a whirl.  Well, the home heating oil business became my permanent employment, and a most satisfying line of work it turned out to be.  The importance of finding fulfillment in work, in loving or at least liking your job, is another subject that I intend to write about in the future. 

I’ve often looked back and reflected on the value of a formal education — not just college, but my personal experience sitting in classrooms from the first through the twelfth grade, which for me was 1959 through 1971.  In spite of the tremendous social convulsions of the 1960s, especially the latter half of that decade, which I was too young to understand at the time, it was an infinitely saner time compared to the public school fiasco today — not that private schools are much better.  As a social experience, my elementary school years were very pleasant.  There were about fifty of us, divided into two classrooms and two different teachers through those years.  There were only two black boys and one Jewish boy — everyone else was of European ancestry, so we were like one big family, growing up together, with the close friendships and petty animosities to be found in any group that size of any age.  All of our teachers were normal people.  Some I liked, some I didn’t care for, but there were none that I loathed, and this would be true of all the teachers I had right through senior year in high school.  On the whole, good values were instilled in us, though even back then we were subjected to subtle lies about racial equality and the moral structure of the world following the supposed triumph of good over evil, led by America, in World War Two.  There was some brainwashing, yes, but very little of the moral poison, supplemented by degenerate television entertainment, not to mention social media, that has become so prevalent.  I think home schooling is the way to go these days, my only reservation being that it deprives a child of the natural joy of socializing, which often nurtures lifelong friendships.  Then again, a youngster would be better off missing out on all the diversity and depravity that now characterizes so many American schools.         

Junior high school, or what’s now called middle school — that is, the seventh and eighth grades in most locales — was a somewhat different experience, though I still think of 1965 to 1967 as the last carefree and innocent years of my life.  It was different because it was a bigger building further from home, there were separate teachers for separate subjects, and kids poured in from the five elementary schools in the Mineola school district, which meant that the student body was five times as large.  I had a bunch of unremarkable teachers from whom I learned next to nothing.  It was an interesting time, though, anthropologically speaking, a great opportunity to observe just how lemming-like human beings are in their behavior, always striving to imitate everyone else, which specifically meant keeping up with the latest clothing fashions in bell-bottom pants, belts, and especially footwear.  The Beatles were all the rage then, so for boys it was the same leather or velour boots that the Beatles wore, while in gym class you were really cool if you wore black tennis shoes or ankle-high Keds sneakers.  Right after Nancy Sinatra’s hit song “These Boots Are Made For Walking” came out in 1966, half the girls were walking around in white boots.  It was also a time for the first stirrings of romance, with some boys and girls holding hands in the hallways and “going steady.”  And I also remember the many fistfights outside on the playing fields, after school or on lunch break, and sometimes even indoors, which were broken up by teachers or janitors.  A fascinating two years, to be sure, but I didn’t want four more years of this at Mineola High School.  I wanted something better, and right across the street was Chaminade.  I took the tough entry exam, passed it, and I was in, one of the few students transitioning from public school instead of the many parochial schools in the county.  In my case, religion had nothing to with my decision to go there.  I just wanted to be one of the elite.  Chaminade had the same appeal to me as the Marines’ slogan, “We’re looking for a few good men.”  That was the slogan in saner times at least, before they started pushing negroes in their recruiting ads and admitting girls, queers, and other assorted freaks.

I have mixed feelings about attending Chaminade for four years, and those feelings have soured as I’ve grown older.  Overall, I enjoyed the camaraderie of my peers, most of whom, on average, were made out of much better stuff than the public school crowd, though there was a wide range of personalities — from scholastic nerds to casual disciplinary problems, whose ranks I had joined by junior year.  Although it was a Catholic school affiliated with the Marianist order, they didn’t really push religion too hard, which was good.  Most of our teachers were Marianist brothers who wore black suits and lived in the adjoining rectory, though there were quite a few lay teachers, both men and women.  I liked most of them.  Looking back, I also liked the higher standards.  There were strict dress codes, which included wearing a jacket and tie every day, no long hair, and you had to follow all rules whether you liked them or not, and if you couldn’t maintain passable grades you were out the door.  Close to thirty percent of our starting freshman class eventually flunked out or simply left because they didn’t like the “boot camp” atmosphere, and I honestly believe that half of all Adelphi graduates would not survive their sophomore year at Chaminade.  So there was that feeling of accomplishment in making it through to the end.  And despite the intense academic environment, we had a lot of fun.

But what about education?  The general climate at Chaminade was one of tepid Republican conservatism, and while there were liberal streaks, there was no blatant leftism.  And we were assigned to read some valuable books now and then in English and Religion class.  But I really doubt that the curriculum differed that much from what public high schools offered.  We also got a heavy dose of liberal indoctrination regarding the so-called civil rights movement, along with the endless insufferable propaganda surrounding World War Two.  Nothing we were taught violated the code of political correctness, nothing went against the grain, nothing encouraged us to question any mainstream narrative.  A good example is the Vietnam War, which raged right through my high school years.  The unwritten rule was that it was okay to voice mild support or mild opposition to the war, or take no position at all when the subject came up, but it would’ve been heresy to speak the truth.  And the truth, as I discovered years later in my independent reading, was that the war was an obscene farce from the start in which tens of thousands of young American men were dying for absolutely nothing, not to mention the endless death and destruction visited upon the Vietnamese people.  Each year a solemn Gold Star mass, flanked by a military honor guard, was held in the school auditorium to commemorate alumni who had fallen in World War Two and the Korean War, and were continuing to die in Vietnam.  It was a kind of holy patriotic ritual, attended by the entire student body.  But at no time in the classroom were we taught about the hidden causes of war, or the origins of communism, or racial differences, or any other topic of vital importance.  Chaminade observed all taboos and went with the flow, as they did more recently with all the Covid nonsense.  And I’m sure it’s just as bad with every other private school.

I know that my priorities are different to most parents who are thinking about sending their sons and daughters to college.  To me, the word education always meant acquiring knowledge, understanding how the world works — not acing every exam, not hanging diplomas on the wall, not getting a prestigious job.  From the earliest age, I had an unquenchable curiosity, and some of my elementary school teachers recognized this trait which in their eyes set me apart from my classmates.  My parents recognized it too, and after I learned how to read they bought me the full 16-volume set of the Golden Book Encyclopedia, which was written for children.  I spent countless hours immersed in those books.  And you know what?  They’re on my bookshelf right now, and from time to time, when nostalgia strikes, I’ll pull one down and open it up again.  They were published in 1959 with very little politically correct brain-rot, and they’re packed with fundamental knowledge, much of which is unfamiliar to your typical American university graduate.  I still learn a few things from them!  By the second or third grade, once most kids have grasped the 3 R’s, this is all they need for a basic understanding of the world.  For the restless few who are driven by a pursuit for truth, they need to become aware of facts and ideas sealed off by the Great Wall of Jewish Censorship.  That wall has been crumbling thanks to the internet, but it still stands.

What I learned from sitting in classrooms for all those years is this: the only thing that really matters is having a teacher who inspires you.  I had roughly fifty teachers from first grade to senior year in college, and I have nice memories of some of them, but the only two who influenced me, who really got the wheels turning inside my head, who really made a difference in a life of thinking, were Robert Pasotti and Thomas Knight — paradoxically at the worst school I ever went to. 

Now, let me get back to the title of this piece, “Don’t go to college,” and address those who still hang on to the myths about a so-called higher education, even though they may not share my priorities.  And let me preface my remarks by saying that, as bad as the college scene was in the 1970s — and I haven’t even mentioned the disruptions caused by radicalized black students and demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which swept across hundreds of campuses — it’s much worse today.  Fifty years ago, job opportunities abounded for college graduates and everyone else in America.  Today, the job market is far more restricted and uncertain, what with swarms of Chinese, Indians and others taking over the professions, and Whites, especially men, given short shrift by corporate and government flunkies tied in to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) cult.   Not only that, but many big tech companies that rapidly expanded in this age of runaway technology have slashed vast numbers of jobs in the last three years, and many smaller outfits have gone belly-up — due in large part, it seems, to the ominous dawn of Artificial Intelligence, the dynamics of which I don’t pretend to understand.  How many young college grads, who were so rosy about life on campus, so ignorant about the real world, are now Uber drivers or baristas at Starbucks?  How many are still living at home with their parents because they can’t afford not to?

Even more sad are the legions of young adults, comprising many of those just mentioned, who took out loans for their college education and are now saddled with debts they have no way of paying off.  What I just read is hard to believe, but if it’s true, there are about 46 million of these unfortunates in America who owe an average of $30,000.  I feel bad for them, but really, taking out a loan for anything has always struck me as a bad idea.  And borrowing a ton of money for a college education is the height of foolishness.  In large part, this lack of prudence should be pinned on their parents, a great number of whom live beyond their means and who at last report are behind $1.13 trillion on their credit card payments.  All of this is a nice way of saying that there a lot of morons in this country.

Again, times have changed drastically in the last fifty years.  If I remember correctly, for my senior year at Adelphi, 1976-77, tuition cost about $2500.  As I write, it’s $47,290, which is close to the national average, and that doesn’t include room and board.  Yes, I know, we have to adjust for inflation, but that’s still an unconscionable and insanely disproportional increase.  And you know that the price tag is only going to go up, not down.  So we’re talking more than $200,000 for four years.  $200,000!  For Chrissake, you can buy a few acres and build a small house for much less than that in much of the country — I did just that a few years ago — not to mention the money you’d earn working for four years, even if you had to settle for a menial job while looking for something better.  That sure beats wasting time in the halls of academia, and believe me, it is a waste of time.  Want knowledge?  Want an education?  Turn the TV off and find a full set of the Golden Book Encyclopedia on eBay.  It’s a hell of a lot cheaper, and you’ll learn a hell of a lot more in a hell of a lot less time.

If you’re wealthy and can afford to piss away two hundred grand to send your son or daughter to college, that obviously changes the equation.  Just expect to have a kid who’s more messed up coming out than going in.  Oh, and that’s another thing that just popped into my head.  I haven’t forgotten that many, if not most, if not the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities required students to get Covid shots and boosters, and wouldn’t reimburse those who were smart enough to refuse the needle and drop out instead — this, on top of other jabs they require for attendance.  If that doesn’t show how despicable these institutions are, I don’t know what does.

I realize, of course, that in some occupational fields a college education is a necessity, and in the long run will pay dividends.  My advice is simply this: unless you have a clear vision of what you want to do in life, and it absolutely requires a degree, and unless you get a scholarship or can pay cash on the barrel, don’t go to college.  It may or may not be enjoyable, but at bottom it’s a waste of time and money, and you’ll learn  much more by searching for and reading good books and following dissident websites.  Also, in those four years your life will be enriched by real experience — performing different jobs, learning how to be self-reliant, and likely finding the kind of work that brings contentment as well as financial stability.